Key Take Home Messages

The health of Lesbians and women who have sex with women (WSW) are affected by a range of social, structural and behavioural factors including deep rooted stigma and discrimination. A limited number of literature documents health issues that disproportionally affect sexual minorities including mental health issues, substance use, medical and sexual health needs. As a result, this population has unique health needs that may not be met by existing health care services.

What are some barriers and health concerns?

  • Some healthcare professionals lack knowledge of the health needs of WSW or have negative attitudes towards them.
  • WSW may postpone or avoid seeking services because of their experiences of past discrimination or perceived homophobia within the healthcare system.
  • Some are hesitant to disclose their sexual orientation or/and gender expression, which may mean they do not receive appropriate care.
  • Access to healthcare may be affected by a person’s education and income level, knowledge on WSW health and cultural beliefs.
  • Mental health disorders are of significant concern among WSW.

Women who sleep with other women are not immune from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women can catch STIs such as herpes, genital warts and chlamydia when exchanging bodily fluids. Any one-on-one contact, such as oral sex or using the same hand when touching yourself and then your partner can put you at risk. Two women menstruating are at a higher risk too.

Tips for safer sex between women

  • If you’re using sex toys, use a condom for each partner or between penetrations. Also, Sex toys should be washed with soap and water between sessions.
  • Avoid oral sex if either of you has any cuts or sores in the mouth or on the lips, or use a dental dam.
  • Some infections can be transmitted by hands, fingers and mutual rubbing. Wash your hands before and after sex.
  • Wear latex gloves and use plenty of water-based lubricant for vaginal or anal fisting.

Symptoms of STI’s in Women

  • Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast. Symptoms may include vaginal itching, pain and soreness on penetration, burning when urinating and thick, white discharge.
  • It is possible for women to transmit thrush during sex through and sharing sex toys.
  • Thrush can be treated with medicated cream and tablets.
  1. Genital herpes (Herpes simples’ virus, HSV and HSV2
  2. a) Description

It is a virus caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) which enters the body through small cracks in the skin or in the tissues that secrete the mucus.

  1. b) Transmission

– Direct skin to skin contact

– Unprotected vaginal, anal, oral sex, or sharing toys

– Unprotected rimming.

  1. c) Symptoms

Most of the time herpes does not cause any symptoms. When there are signs, they can include painful blisters and ulcers around the genital area or cold sores (oral herpes) around the mouth. The first outbreak of sores is usually the worst.

  1. d) Treatment

– Until now there is no permanent cure for herpes. However, prescribed medication can reduce discomfort during an outbreak

– The virus will stay in your system, so you may have further reoccurrences.

  1. Genital warts
  2. Description

These are fleshy growths in the vaginal and anal region. They are caused by certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV).

  1. b) Transmission

Direct skin to skin contact, such as vaginal rubbing.

 

  1. Symptoms
  • Small, flesh-colored or grey swellings in your genital area
  • Itching or discomfort in your genital area
  • Bleeding with intercourse.
  1. Treatment

Women with genital warts do not need more regular pap smears than   those without them. Cryotherapy is an option for treatment which involves the freezing of warts using liquid nitrogen. Laser treatments are also available for warts that are more extensive or for recurring cases.

  1. Chlamydia
  2. a) Description

Chlamydia is a super common bacterial infection that you can get from unprotected sexual contact with another person.

  1. b) Transmission

Chlamydia is spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex, and eyes can catch it from infected fingers. Chlamydia can infect the vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, eyes, and throat.

  1. c) Symptoms

– It’s one of the most common STIs, and most people who have chlamydia don’t show any symptoms. Around 80% of women with Chlamydia will have no symptoms.

– The common symptoms are unusual genital discharge and/or pain and burning when urinating.

  1. d) Treatment

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. Some antibiotics can cure it in just one dose, while others may need to be used for several days.

  1. Human Papilloma Virus
  2. a) Description

HPV is the most common STI, at least 50% of sexually active people will get it at some time in their lives. The body usually clears HPV on its own without causing any problems, but HPV can lead to certain kinds of cancer.

  1. b) Transmission
  • HPV is transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact.
  • You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex whether protected or not with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex.
  • HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
  • Anyone who is sexually active is at high risk of getting HPV even from one sexual encounter.
  1. c) Symptoms

The virus can be in your system for 3 weeks up to 8 months (or longer) before you show symptoms. Some of these symptoms make take shape as warts. They come in different shapes and sizes. You may not have visible warts, but can still pass the virus on to your sexual partner(s).

  1. d) Treatment

– According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years for 90% of cases

– There are few treatments available, such as freezing the warts with gas and prescribed creams. The type of treatment will depend on the size, location and number of warts.

– Even if it’s treated, the virus will stay in your system so the warts may come back.

  1. Gonorrhoea
  2. Description 

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection that affects the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. Women with gonorrhoea are at risk for serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

  • Transmission          You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhoea. Infected fingers and unprotected rimming can transmit it.
  1. c) Symptoms

– A burning sensation when urinating;

– A white, yellow, or green discharge

– Abdominal pain

– Fever

  1. d) Treatment

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics, usually given in a single dose. If you’re being treated, your partner should be tested too. You should also wait until you and your partner finish your treatment and until your symptoms disappear (if you have them) before you start having sex again. This is to make sure you don’t spread the infection.

  1. Hepatitis
  2. a) Description

There are three different kinds of hepatitis, some of which are spread more easily than others. Hepatitis A, B and C can all be transmitted sexually, however hepatitis B is the type most likely to be sexually transmitted. All types of hepatitis are serious and affect the liver. Hepatitis B and C are the leading cause of liver cancer and are the most common reason for liver transplants.

  1. b) Transmission
Hepatitis A Hepatitis B           Hepatitis C
–      Unprotected Rimming

–    Through contaminated food or water

–    Unprotected sex

 

 

 

– Through blood and other body fluids

– Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex

– Sharing drug  equipment such as snorting saws and needles

– Tattoos and piercing

 

 

– Through blood and other body fluids

– Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex

– Sharing drug equipment such as snorting saws and needles

– Tattoos and piercing

 

 

  1. c) Symptoms

Common signs include:

– Body aches, weakness, tiredness

– Loss of appetite

– Nausea or vomiting

– Diarrhea or constipation

– Dark urine

– Light colored stool

– Fever

– Headache

– A dull ache in the right upper side of the abdomen

– Yellow color to the skin called jaundice

– Itchy skin

– Joint pain and rashes

– Some people with hepatitis have no signs.

  1. d) Treatment

A blood test will show your doctor what type of hepatitis you have. Your treatment will be based on your type of hepatitis and may include:

  • Rest
  • Taking only the prescribed medicines ordered by your doctor because other medicines can affect your liver.
  • Do not drink alcohol since it can further damage your liver
  • Stop smoking and avoid second hand smoke.
  • Eat small portions of low fat foods to decrease nausea.
  • Apply cream often to itchy and dry skin.
  1. Molluscum Contagiosum
  2. a) Description

Sometimes called water warts, is a viral infection of the skin that results in pink, small, and raised lesions with a dimple in the center.

  1. b) Transmission

– Skin to skin contact

– Protected or unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex.

  1. c) Symptoms

Pearly smooth fluid-filled bumps on your skin. They are most common in the genital area, the inner thighs and the lower abdomen.

  1. d) Treatment

There are many treatment techniques, the most important techniques are: surgery, laser, tea tree oil.

  1. Pubic lice (crabs)
  2. a) Description

Very small insects that usually infect the hair in the genetic area and the anus. They can also be found on the hair of the legs, armpits, lower abdomen.

  1. b) Transmission

Sexual contact or through sharing clothing, bed linens and towels of someone who has lice.

  1. c) Symptoms

Itching in the genital area and anus and you can also see live lice on your body hair.

  1. d) Treatment

You can buy and use lice-killing lotion and shampoo from the pharmacy. Don’t have sex until you get rid completely from the lice.

  1. Scabies
  2. a) Description

Scabies are parasites that infect the skin and cause intense itching. Scabies are transferred by skin-to-skin contact and can occur anywhere on the body.

  1. b) Transmission

Scabies can be passed through contact; it is usually passed through non-sexual skin-to-skin contact.

  1. c) Symptoms

– Scabies causes intense itching and a pimply rash

– The itching will often be worse at night than during the day

– Itching and rash most often show up on buttocks, wrist, nipples, waist, shoulder blades, arm pits, elbows and between the fingers, but it is not limited to these areas

– If a person has scabies for the first time, it will usually take 2-6 weeks for symptoms to start appearing.

  1. d) Treatment

Prescription creams can be used to treat scabies. These creams kill the mites and some also kill the eggs. There is also an antibiotic that can be taken by mouth in a single dose.

  1. Syphilis
  2. a) Description

It’s a bacterial infection that infects the genital area, mouth and skin. It         can progress and affect internal organs especially the nervous system.

 

  1. b) Transmission

It’s transmitted through direct contact with syphilis sores or during unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex.

  1. c) Symptoms

There are 3 stages of the infection:

  • Primary infection: it appears three weeks after exposure as a painless ulcer in the genital, anal, or mouth area.
  • Secondary Infection: red spotty rash develops on the palms of hands or soles of feet and it may also appear anywhere on your body.
  • Tertiary syphilis: it can happen months or years after infection. There is a possibility of long-term damage to heart and brain. Some other complications of late syphilis include blindness, dementia, aortic aneurysm, and deafness.
  1. d) Treatment

Antibiotics followed up by blood tests to make sure the infection is cleared.

Keeping your vagina healthy

The vagina is self-cleansing, so there’s no need to wash inside it. Vaginal soreness and vulvar irritation can be caused by the overuse of perfumed soap, bubble baths, and shower gels.

After going to the toilet, always wipe from front to back (from vagina to anus).

Coming soon

  • Domestic violence
  • Substance use
  • Mental health

 

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khalil

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